Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Delicate Aroma of Off-Campus Apartments

He woke up. Disoriented, lost for a minute. Sunlight streamed into the room through the window above his head as he lay on a couch, its weave pattern engraved into his cheek. It wasn't long enough for his body; he had to sleep with his legs tucked under him, leading to constant discomfort and the occasional late-night screaming charlie horse. But beggars cannot be choosers. This was the apartment belonging to his three best friends, all girls, all transparently concerned about him yet wondering when he'd leave their couch. After washing out of college last semester, he'd never figured out how to tell his parents; he'd worked the summer at Bil-Mar as usual, then packed all his things and gone back to Bowling Green, despite no longer being enrolled there. He'd showed up at the girls' door, and asked if they could help him out for a while until he could figure out what to do, even though they all knew the thing to do was to go home and face the music. He just couldn't figure out how to ease into the crushing disappointment and dead end of potential this would represent. So, he slept on a couch that was not his, and waited for something to happen: the girls to kick him out, the school to realize its mistake and invite him back with open arms, the moon to fall from the sky and crush the midwestern United States.

Tara had a crush on him. He had a crush on Melissa. Jen used to have a crush on him, but was now engaged. But they were all Christians, so nothing had ever happened. Well, he had pretty much lost his faith, but he had no idea if any of them had, and didn't dare make any overtures in case someone's intact morality snapped back and clobbered him. He rolled up off the couch, went in to brush his teeth, put on his shoes, and headed outside, still wearing the clothes he'd slept in. He spent his days walking around the town and the campus, haunting the places he'd once been successful and the places where he'd failed. He wondered how much of this he would remember: the names of buildings, teachers, friends. (Answer from ten years later: not a whole hell of a lot of it.) He had vague ideas of looking for a job, but knew that was dumb, he could just go back to Bil-Mar and make real money, but lordalmighty he didn't want to drive a forklift forever. He knew Cedar Point had dormitories for summer employees; maybe that might be a way to go. Or Disney World. Yeah, why the hell not. He resolved to drive to Florida at the end of the week, take his chances. It couldn't be worse than mooching off his bewildered friends. Could it?

He walked into the university library, went up to the music library on the fourth floor, handed his no-longer-valid ID to the guy behind the counter, got a pair of headphones, and plugged into karel 14, where he sat to listen to a rare Bob Seger album. As long as he was in town, he should cram as much time as he could into the largest collection of pop music in the world, right? Around him, real students read texts and notes, wrote in notebooks, and otherwise stayed busy. Him, he just closed his eyes, leaned back, and passed another hour of life.